Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, April 24, 2017

Philosophy Installment 1 and 2- Emily O’Toole #8

(these installments are posted by Emily O’Toole using Cayce Morris’ account because blogger was not working)
(Installment 1)                              
“I Don’t Believe in God Because __________.”
You fill in the blank. During the course of this philosophy class, I have heard many answers to this statement: because of evolution, because of science, because Christians are hypocrites, because I had religion forced down my throat, because God is fake, because a God of judgement can’t be a God of love, because religion is the root of so much war, hate, and violence. How could a God that supposedly loves his people so much bring so much hurt and tragedy into people’s lives?
I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I do believe that it is vital to challenge your beliefs and not just believe what others tell you to because that is what is “widely accepted”. Part of why I took this philosophy course, was to challenge myself and know my reasoning when asked the question “why?”. I know many of you can relate to this, as we have all studied the same philosophers and ideas this semester. I was not raised in a religious home and did not have any solid foundation of religious upbringing. I grew up thinking you went to church to be seen as a good person, and really did not care why people actually went to church. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school until I willingly stepped into a church. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly wasn’t expecting for my life to radically change direction. God met me where I was at. It wasn’t God saying, “Oh, Emily, go work at a homeless shelter and go to church every Sunday and stop drinking and cussing for six weeks and do a holy dance, THEN I will love you.” No, instead it was, “I know your past is broken. I know where you struggle. I know where you fall short. I know your heart and the void you feel towards living. I know ALL of this, and I still love you.” I was met with grace, exactly where I was, and this was a game changer for me. No longer was I searching for my identity in substances, people, or affirmation because my identity was in Jesus. In Jesus, persona and image of how your viewed doesn't have power. It's not that you’re perfect. It's that you’re NOT and Christ loved you anyway.
So now that you have a preface of what I believe and where I come from, for the duration of these installments, I will be addressing some common ideas/questions/statements I have received this semester while also taking a look at the book The Reason for God, by Tim Keller.

“What makes Christianity different than other religions?”
In terms of teaching, the answer to this question is simple. It is the gift of grace. Grace is defined as “free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” In other words, God has given us grace and freedom from sin, any imperfection, every way that separates us from Him. Often times, the outlook of religion is that “I obey therefore I am accepted.” However, what the Gospel teaches is that “I'm accepted therefore I obey.” Salvation is not determined on how many good deeds you do or how good of a person you are. Truly living a life for Christ is not about doing the right thing or saying the right words in order to be viewed as a “good person”. God has said that that doesn’t matter to Him. Ephesians 2 says that “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our sins- for it is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith- and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one may boast.”
Christianity is not about going to church every Sunday or bible study or volunteering at homeless shelters in order to be right with God. He wants our heart, not our actions. 1 Samuel 16 says, “Though people look at the outward appearance, the Lord looks at the heart.” Our freedom from our sin is the grace given to us by Jesus, the perfect son, dying on the cross for where we fall short. Yes, Christians ARE hypocrites. Humankind is NOT perfect. I am the first one to admit I am always failing, always falling short. But in Jesus, there is grace. At the center of our faith is the cross.
Romans 3: 23-24 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

(Installment 2)
How could a God that supposedly loves his people so much bring so much hurt and tragedy into people’s lives?
Many people do not necessarily take the exclusivity of Christianity to be the biggest threat, but instead, the presence of evil in the world and this concept of suffering pose the biggest problem to the unbeliever. The philosopher J. L. Mackie, in his book The Miracle of Theism, states that “if a good and powerful God exists, he would not allow pointless evil, but because there is much unjustifiable, pointless evil in the world, the traditional good and powerful God could not exist.” Keller points out a flaw with this concept in the assertion that the world is filled with pointless evil is a hidden premise, “that is if evil appears pointless to me, then it must be pointless.” This fallacy exemplifies a notion of blind faith for if our minds can’t “plumb to the depths of the universe for good answers to suffering, well, then, there can’t be any.” Just because you don’t know or can’t imagine a good reason for why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Many people believe that if there were good reasons for the existence of evil, they would be accessible to our minds. But why should this be the case?
Many of us have experienced loss, grief, or tragedy at some point in life that has tested us to the very core of who we are. I lost a close friend seven years ago to cancer and I am still working through this today. I am not here to discredit your pain or grief. Whatever it is that has been your trying or testing moment in life, I am sure you are not necessarily grateful for the tragedy itself. However, at least for me, I would not trade the character, strength, and insight I have gained from this experience for anything. Though I would not wish losing a loved one onto anyone, through time, I can come to accept that there are some good outcomes and reasons for the pain that occurs in life. Therefore, why can’t it be possible that from God’s perspective, there are good reasons for all of them? Are we to subject God to our own humanly concepts of understanding reason and right vs. wrong? As Tim Keller put it, “If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the SAME time) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing you to continue that you can’t know.” You can’t have it both ways.
If anything, evil and suffering may be evidence for God. Author C. S. Lewis used the idea of ‘the cruelty of life’ as his basis to reject God; he then, however, came to realize that if anything, evil was even more “problematic for his new atheism.”  Lewis writes,
My argument against God was that the universe seemed cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of “just” and “unjust”? What was I comparing the universe to when I called it “unjust”? I could’ve given up in the idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too- for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies… Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple.
Suffering provided a better argument for God’s existence than against it in Lewis’ case.
         The concept of a subjective justice, which Lewis addresses here, is a widely accepted ideology. Our society accepts, for the most part, what the government delegates as right and wrong. However, do you ever wonder who tells the government what is right? How is the government the ultimate judge of what is justifiable and what is not? How can one justify that an act is so bad that a life deserves to be taken? On what authority is that decided on other than human opinion? When you look at all of these questions, it lends us as a body of people to lean more toward the understanding that there must be some higher sort of right vs. wrong. The fact of the matter is, much like there are holes in our judicial system, there is nothing that makes one human’s idea of right vs wrong, just vs. unjust, weigh more than the other without a source of a higher subjective authority.

         So, if you made it all the way through this extremely long post, I applaud you. Please comment your thoughts, ask questions, and voice your opinions- I would love to hear your feedback on what and why you believe what you do concerning these topics. Thanks for reading!

-Emily O'Toole #8

Romans 5:8 “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Romans 10:31 “For everyone that calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Psalm 62:7 “On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”

Psalm 139.


  1. I absolutely loved these two installments. Tim Keller is such an amazing author and pastor, and the fact that you brought your testimony into made it so much more impactful. I also loved the choices of Scripture you used because they make your post share God's truth directly from His Word. In fact, I was thinking of doing a similar topic for my second installment so I could write out something I had prepared for Ephesians 2:1-10, and seeing it here was honestly quite refreshing. Excellent job with these two installments! God bless!

  2. "What was I comparing the universe to when I called it 'unjust'?" Can't such judgments simply affirm one's reflective conception of justice? It would be an impoverished imagination indeed that looked out on a world of woe and could not conjure the vision of something better. This may in some sense be "subjective," but it becomes less so as we discuss such visions and build consensus towards working to achieve them.

    This is a thoughtful and engaging post. Wish you'd held off on installment 2, until getting this and other feedback. But you can still respond to it, and perhaps edit in some links and visual material to supplement your text. It's not hard to find thoughtful responses to C.S. Lewis, if you'd care to engage them.